Monday, December 10, 2007
The Anger of Man and the Righteousness of God
What a week it's been in this country, and yes, that was said with my inherited Welsh gift of understatement. A self-pitying, probably demonic, whacked-out kid shoots up a mall in Nebraska. Another self-pitying, probably demonic whacked-out kid decides to hate Christians and shoot up a church and missionary school in Colorado. We don't know the whole answers, the whys and wherefores, but sin and the enemy lie at the root. It's a no brainer.
My mood wasn't all that good when I got home tonight and watched the news. Shepard Smith relished in showing a video where four young ladies (no, they weren't ladies. I've got another name for them that can't be repeated in polite company) decided to walk onto a public subway in New York City and do a vulgar pole dance in front of everyone. Apparently it's part of some website that dares people to do things like that in public for money. For a brief moment, I found myself wishing that the Saudi or Iranian propriety police were around to take their whips and canes to these young strumpets. I'd leave welts and then some. And that brings me to the point of this post. I have written about this subject before, using some of the same verses that I am about to use, but it's worth doing again. All the more because I think that the feelings with which I struggle are probably shared by many Christians out there.
For people who have some level of morality, decency and propriety left, it's normal to be justifiably outraged at the increasing evil in our culture. Lewdness, lasciviousness, rebelliousness, thoughtlessness, hatefulness and violence are all hallmarks of what we deal with today. It steadily grows worse. God's Word has the following things to say about it all:
. . . although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:32).
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these (1 Timothy 3:1-5).
Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).
That last verse was the warning of our Savior, Jesus Himself. And I can certainly feel the truth of it in my own heart as I get increasingly disgusted by what I see around me. He warned us about it because He does not want us to let our love grow cold. The world will know we are Christians by our love, not unrighteous anger. Righteous anger seeks justice AND redemption. Unrighteous anger seeks only revenge. The anger of man devoid of the Holy Spirit is not capable of achieving God's righteousness. And but for God's grace, we ourselves can fall prey to the very sins and evils we detest in the society around us.
It is very easy for me to feel merciful and compassionate to those who know they have done wrong and exhibit sorrow for it. I can sympathize with those who struggle with sin and evil in their lives. It is easy to want to help them all I can. But for those who enjoy their wickedness and take every opportunity to rub society's nose in their filth, I find it hard to be compassionate. Very hard. Every time I see Britney Spears or some "starlet" being crude, vulgar and thumbing their nose at decorum, it makes me mad. I'd love to personally take a strap to them. Same thing goes for these tramps on the subway. In my flesh, I'd love to see them stripped down and flogged with a bamboo cane ala Singaporean justice. These guys who committed the shootings at the mall and at the churches, I feel regret that they're dead. But what troubles me is this. While the "new man" within me regrets that they are dead without knowing Christ, the "old man" within me regrets it for another reason. Its not because they died and are likely in Hell -- true justice at the hands of the One who judges justly. It's because they escaped having to face the music here for what they did in the electric chair. It is there that I see the evil in my own heart. It matters little whether the things with which I am angry are things that deserve anger. It is the vengefulness in my own heart toward them that I find frightening. Why? Because there isn't a one of them that God couldn't reach and couldn't change. There isn't one of them that God couldn't have saved and redeemed.
Does this mean that I should oppose criminal justice imposed by the state? Not at all. But I do not want my own anger toward evil in society to warp my own mind and heart. I do not want righteous anger to become unrighteous anger. It's a very, very hard balance to maintain as our culture continues its free fall toward the septic tank, and divine judgment in the end. But maintain it I must.
As the darkness increases in our world, being a light in the darkness becomes all the more important. May we not extinguish our light behind a dark bushel of hatred and self-righteousness. As redeemed children of God, our only righteousness is imputed to us by Christ. We had best remember that, even as we fight to clean up our society.
And pray for these people -- the shooting victims, the perpetrators' families, and for these sad, misguided girls who think it's cool to strut their stuff like hookers and offend the public at will. They need our prayers the most.